A Step-By-Step Built-In Styling Process
08/28 Design Tips

A Step-By-Step Built-In Styling Process

We’re breaking down our latest built-ins!

As seasons shift, we look for ways to create new moments in our homes that reflect our surroundings. This year, we're finding inspiration in our interiors' cyclical nature, playing with tonal and textural elements to form vignettes that speak to the autumnal feelings we're approaching. 

Built-ins are one of our favorite places to update our decor and add layers to reflect the season, and today, we're breaking down how we styled the built-ins in our recent shoot with our friend and local designer, Lea Marietta!

Here's our go-to, step-by-step process: 

A Step-By-Step Built-In Styling Process
A Step-By-Step Built-In Styling Process

Step 1: Create a blank canvas

No matter what kind of shelves we're styling, we always empty our shelves first and everything out. That way, we can start fresh and see the space we're working with in a new light. A blank canvas is helpful when styling anything, but in our opinion, especially built-ins!

A Step-By-Step Built-In Styling Process

Step 2. Consider what you’re working with

A Step-By-Step Built-In Styling Process

Once you have cleared everything from your shelves, look at what you already have, and start grouping your objects by size. This process makes it easier once you start styling, and it helps you to see the common thread in your pieces and consider what you may want to add to your collection.

Step 3: Ground the look with substantial pieces

A Step-By-Step Built-In Styling Process

Start by using your largest items first to create focal points to style around. Vases, baskets, bowls, art, or other large decor items are perfect for adding substance and visual weight to a built-in.

We typically like to stagger these items so that they don't stack on top of each other and are not right next to each other, which helps create balance!

A Step-By-Step Built-In Styling Process

Stylist secret: It helps to place all of your similar objects at the same time. For example, style all of your vases, then your baskets, etc.

Step 4: Start to create groupings with your smaller items

A Step-By-Step Built-In Styling Process

This next step can be the hardest part of the process, but also the most rewarding! We love to create groupings with our medium and small objects to fill in the spaces that our large pieces don't occupy.

Stacking books, adding in boxes, and pairing two similar elements together are some of our favorite go-to's. This is also the perfect time to add personal touches like family photos or collected objects to make it your own!

A Step-By-Step Built-In Styling Process
A Step-By-Step Built-In Styling Process

Step 5: Step back and evaluate, add and subtract

Once you're happy with the general idea of what you have created, step back, and evaluate! Don't be afraid to add, subtract, or start entirely from scratch if the final product isn't speaking to you. Remember, sometimes pivots lend the best results!

Scroll over the image below to shop the entire look




Show Comments
Studio McGee
  1. Thanks for the awesome tips! Any chance you will share the color white? I’m in the process of building and love the white of the built-ins you are styling. Thanks

  2. Love these tips! When prepping for your install, do you moodboard and preplan particular pieces on the computer, or just pull and brings lots of options to play with?

    1. Hi Claire! It depends, but usually a mix of both! We like to have a general idea of the mood we’re going for but stay flexible and play with things as we go.

  3. I’d like to paint the back of my shelves. What kind (flat, satin, semi-gloss, etc.) and color is the white paint on your shelves?

  4. What if you have one big open space? We have 2 niches on either side of our fireplace. Bellow the space are 2 cabinets. The niches are about 3’ wide by 2’ tall and about 2’ deep??

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